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Building an On-Line Presence

By Francis Wade

Young Jamaican professionals who are serious about building their career must confront two facts about their future:

Fact 1: They are the first generation of Caribbean professionals (vs. just Jamaican)

Fact 2: Their image on the internet is critical to their success (vs. just based on who they know personally)

We Are Caribbean Professionals
The first trend is the movement from Jamaica being a country with strong business ties to the U.S., Canada and England, to one that has deep and irreversible ties to the other countries in the region. The source of this change is the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME.)

It is increasingly likely that a young professional will spend at least a part of their career working in another Caribbean country. It is also predictable that they will, at some point, have direct dealings with a company based elsewhere in the region.

This is quite unlike the experience of their very own executives who grew up in Jamaica in the 1970’s when the last major migration took place. Recent research shows that over 80% of Jamaicans would still move to live in North America if they could get the opportunity. Most of our professionals are still distracted by the idea of living in Orlando, visiting New York, studying in Boston or shopping in Toronto.

However, a professional that has their attention split between living in Jamaica and migrating to North America is likely to miss the biggest change that is underway around them.

All the current thinking does is to leave us managing the career we wish we had, rather than the one we are likely to have as Caribbean professionals. Accepting the fact that we are regional professionals, first and foremost is a start, and that we have to do what serious people do when they detect a change coming of which they are ill-informed. That is, we need to learn, study and experience what it means to be working in a region that we have largely ignored.

Unfortunately, most professionals in Jamaica are not doing one thing about this upcoming change, apart from thinking that since no-one else is doing anything, then neither should they.

The idea of getting to know the Caribbean – our own region – as well as we know Dolphin, Sawgrass and Broward Malls in South Florida is a foreign concept.

However, our Caribbean colleagues outside Jamaica are busy visiting, vacationing and working in other countries across the region. They are also benefiting from having family that lives in other CSME countries, rather than North America or England.

We need to do the same to acquaint ourselves with the region, and the internet is the most cost-effective and efficient way to start.

We Must Use the Internet
The second trend is an unstoppable as the first.

If you have not yet “Googled” yourself, follow the link at the end of this article and find out whether or not you can be found by this most powerful of search engines. Do multiple searches using your name in quotes, your company, your high school and city.

This is not an exercise in vanity.

The point of the exercise is to realize that there might already be an image of who you are on the internet. In the next few years the picture being painted will only become brighter as more and more references are added to those that already exist. Notice that you have no choice or control over what information is being presented.

Of course, one option is to be invisible, stay invisible and hope that no-one notices you. That is hardly an option for an upwardly mobile professional. In the age of CSME, a Jamaican professional who cannot be found on the internet by their colleagues in Port of Spain and Bridgetown will be assumed to be someone who just “doesn’t get it.” Unfortunately, there is not a single industry that is not being impacted by the existence of new technology.

In short, there is nowhere to hide.

A much better strategy for a young professional is to use the current wave of interactive, web-based tools to build an online presence for themselves that is an authentic and real expression of their interests.

My advice is that if you like cricket, then join cricket discussion lists, open a or page and start your own cricket blog.

Practice on topics that you are interested in, and passionate about. Cricket? Cooking? Catholicism? CRM? It really doesn’t matter at this stage, as long as the topic is one that holds an abiding interest.

The point here is to start the process of building a personal brand online, beginning with an area that you love, have an interest in, want to know more about, like to share with other people and wish you could spend more time on. When you choose an area of real interest, your representation to the world in cyberspace is likely to be more authentic than not. You are also more likely to spend time building your presence, and to learn the tools to further expand it.

Facing these facts does take courage, and the willingness to deal with a challenge that most Jamaican professionals have not yet realized. However, the young professional who refuses to keep their head in the sand is the one who is more likely to give their career an early boost.

The author is the owner of Framework Consulting, a firm specializing in conducting high stake interventions for Caribbean companies, and the author of FirstCuts monthly ezine.
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